• Question: Does speaking to another person of another language affect the way one feels towards them?

    Asked by Jess, Rajan:) and Maggie to Wil on 10 Mar 2017.
    • Photo: Wilhelmiina Toivo

      Wilhelmiina Toivo answered on 10 Mar 2017:

      This is a really good question! I’m not entirely sure yet, and hopefully will discover more in the course of my research 🙂

      Bilinguals in general feel ‘less’ in their second language. Theoretically, this could then lead to them thinking of their interactions in the second language as less emotional too. However, I’m not sure if the effect goes quite that deep – for example I speak English with some of my best friends and my boyfriend, and I don’t feel any less towards these people, even though the language itself may be less emotional for me 🙂 sometimes I feel like I cannot completely express myself, but that’s another story.

      In multilingual families with complicated language situations I think this is more relevant and actually might happen quite a bit. If a child grows up with three or two languages in the family, they learn to associate different situations with different languages. For example if their mom always tells them off in one of the languages, and one of the languages they only speak at school, they would surely feel differently about a person speaking to them in those languages, rather than in the language the family would use during conversations over the dinner table.